Race, Nationality, and Ethnicity are Used Interchangeably Nowadays

These starkly different reactions and recent similar events about Ferguson and others reveal the deep racial divide that still exists in this country.
 
The situations in Ferguson and other cities force Americans to question why so few churches display racial diversity and harmony. Even Christians must admit their view of race often conforms to the traditional cultural narrative. Believers are not immune to the effects of racism and discrimination.
 
What is the Difference between Race and Ethnicity?
Racial, cultural background, and national makeup as a person and it is important to know the differences.
 
DIVIDED BY RACE
 
Over the past fifty years, laws and social norms regarding race have undeniably improved. Yet with all of the progress, the United States remains deeply divided along racial lines. This reality is nowhere starker than in the church.
 
  • Race is associated with biology.
  • Ethnicity is associated with culture.
 
In biology, races are genetically distinct populations within the same species; they typically have relatively minor morphological and genetic differences. Though all humans belong to the same species (Homo sapiens), and even to the same sub-species (Homo sapiens sapiens), there are small genetic variations across the globe that engender diverse physical appearances, such as variations in skin color.
 
Although humans are sometimes divided into races, the morphological variation between races is not indicative of major differences in DNA. For example, recent genetic studies show skin color may drastically change in as few as 100 generations, spanning 2,500 years, as a result of environmental influences. Furthermore, the DNA of two humans chosen at random generally varies by less than 0.1 percent. This is less genetic variation than other types of hominids (such as chimpanzees and orangutans), leading some scientists to describe all humans as belonging to the same race — the human race.
 
Ethnicity is the term for the culture of people in a given geographic region, including their language, heritage, religion, and customs. To be a member of an ethnic group is to conform to some or all of those practices.
 
Race and ethnicity can obviously overlap, but they are distinct. For example, a Japanese-American would probably consider herself a member of the Japanese or East Asian race, but, if she doesn’t engage in any of the practices or customs of her ancestors, she might not identify with the ethnicity, but might instead consider herself to be American.
 
‘Race is a made up concept by Christians.’ Is a claim made by some. Yet, bridges across racial gaps cannot be easily built, but the Bible provides guidance. Christians should let their thinking about racial issues be shaped primarily by biblical principles and only secondarily by current social norms. There is a place for social analysis, but this should come after Christians have a firm grasp on the biblical principles that apply to race.
 
Race Is a Social Construct
 
Race as generally understood in the United States is a social construct. When most people think of race, they immediately picture skin color. Race is also associated with other physical features such as hair, body type, lip size, and nose shape. In the United States, the concept of race has been used to divide and oppress. By the 1600s, modern black slavery had become the norm in Europe. Several countries had established slave markets on the west coast of Africa. These ports began shipping millions of Africans to North and South America. Skin color proved to be an easy trait to differentiate between slave owners and slaves. Even after slavery was abolished, race served as a cultural and social barrier between people of African and Anglo descent. The close association between race and discrimination is a central story line in the American narrative.
 
Race vs Nationality
 
People often try to combine together “race” and “nationality,” but the fact is that they are two different terms that do not match in any way.
 
While race refers to people who believe that a particular race is superior to all other races, “nationality” means the belief in belonging to a particular nation. When “race” pertains to people, “nationality” pertains to the nation.
 
When race can be defined by the bloodline, nationality is defined on the basis of borders, culture, tradition, culture, and language. When comparing the two, “nationality” has a broader meaning. On the contrary, persons who value race are only narrow-minded.
 
Nationality pertains to a person’s region of birth or origin. Nationality is also defined as the relation of a person with his state of origin. Nationality gives a person protection of the nation where he or she was born. On the other hand, race does not ensure any protection of the state.
 
Though people believing in race share a common genealogy, most races are seen to share multiple genealogies. Race is mainly determined by the color of the skin; race just says if you are white, black, or brown.
 
In “nationality,” all races are equal. There is no difference in race when talking of a nationality. It is just the thought of one nation that prevails. But in “race,” it is just the thought of a particular race that the person belongs to overrides all other things.
 
In “race,” people share the same color, thoughts, culture, and tradition. But when it comes to “nationality,” it is not that the traits of a particular race dominate, but it pertains to a common culture, tradition, and other aspects.
 
Nationalists take pride in one’s nation whereas the racists would prejudice someone based on their race, or color of their skin.
 
In the legal sphere, you get these court decisions that endorse affirmative action programs that promote forward-looking rationales, like diversity for a university, let’s say, but don’t allow programs that promote backward-looking rationales, such as remedying general societal discrimination, unless you have a specific documented case of past discrimination. So you end up with this ungrounded, untethered notion of general diversity which has nothing to do with the real impact of race in society. There’s an asymmetry that’s important to keep in mind when we’re talking about race versus ethnicity. Yet politicians deliberately further this non-distinction between race and ethnicity,
 
I think most people associate race with biology and ethnicity with culture. It’s important to stress the culture and language part of it, which I will cover later.
 
While race and ethnicity share an ideology of common ancestry, they differ in several ways. First of all, race is primarily unitary. You can only have one race, while you can claim multiple ethnic affiliations. You can identify ethnically as Irish and Polish, but you have to be essentially either black or white. The fundamental difference is that race is socially imposed and hierarchical. There is an inequality built into the system it’s how you’re perceived by others.
 
The Bible offers the spiritual tools necessary to build bridges across race and culture. Yet conversations among Christians about racial issues too often mirror the culture’s categories rather than biblical ones. Many believers take their cues about race from the social climate instead of Scripture’s teachings.
 
Christians have gotten involved, too. But for a people who claim to be supernaturally united by the Holy Spirit, their arguments have frequently been just as divisive and inconclusive as those of non-Christians. Should discussions about race and reconciliation sound different among followers of Christ? Does the Bible speak to contemporary racial issues? If so, how does a biblical understanding of race move racially and culturally diverse people closer toward unity?
 
The Bible teaches that there is one race: the human race. All people are descended from the same historic parents and are created in the image of God. Each person, regardless of race or culture, has inherent dignity and worth as God’s creation and image bearer. But there are also two spiritual races: the redeemed and the unredeemed. As God’s “chosen race” by grace through faith, Christians should be able to dialogue about race relations productively. Only by employing the Bible’s principles for understanding race will reconciliation become a reality.
 
There’s Only One Race: The Human Race
 
The Bible speaks of race in different terms than modern Americans. First, the Bible affirms what science has subsequently supported. Even though different races exhibit different physical features, the differences have little biological significance. All human beings, no matter what their genetic traits, are part of the same race: the human race. One of the best verses to illustrate this point is Acts 17:26: “And [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place”.
 
The “one man” in this verse is the historical Adam. God commanded the first man and his wife, Eve, to be fruitful and multiply. After the Flood, Noah and his descendants had children who had children who increased in number and filled the Earth. As the human population swelled, they ventured out into different geographic locations. They formed “nations” of people who dwelled in territories with particular boundaries during particular times. The times and places where human beings took up residence were all “determined” beforehand by God. So the multinational diversity present in the world is not by accident; it is by God’s design.
 
If all humankind shares the same ancestral parentage, what does that mean for race relations today? Primarily, it refutes any conception of ontological inferiority. Throughout much of U.S. history, racist men and women promulgated the myth that people of African descent were not only biologically different but also a deficient race.
 
From the earliest days, American slaves were treated as less than full persons. The “Three-fifths Compromise” of 1787, for example, allowed states to count black slaves as three-fifths of a person when determining their political representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. Laws against miscegenation also found their roots in ideas of racial inferiority. Miscegenation refers to intermarrying and procreation between races. Racists often used the perceived threat of miscegenation as one of the most potent methods of fear- and hate-mongering. But subtler forms of racism are more common today. Concepts such as the “bell curve” reinforce the idea that some races of people are inherently more intelligent than others. And in Ferguson, the Department of Justice confirmed disturbing patterns of racial bias at work in the criminal justice system.
 
The Bible teaches that all human beings are created in the image of God (the doctrine of the imago dei). The image of God in all people makes them equally worthy of dignity in the sight of God and all humankind. Racism not only disregards scientific facts but it also, more importantly, is a direct assault on the image of God in humanity.
 
THERE ARE TWO RACES: REDEEMED AND UNREDEEMED
 
While the Bible speaks of one biological race, the human race, it also speaks of two spiritual races. First Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
 
To be a “chosen race” means to be called to faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit through the grace of the Father. In the final judgment, God will distinguish between two races of humanity—the redeemed and the unredeemed. These races are not determined by biology but by belief. Those who by faith accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will enter into heavenly glory. Those who reject the gospel will be eternally separated from God and left to the devastating effects of their unbelief. Now in saying this, if you want to talk about race in following this train of thought there are two, sheep and goats.
 
Just as all human beings have the same biological heritage, all people also share the same spiritual heritage. When Adam rebelled against God by eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, spiritual and physical death entered the world. All of Adam’s descendants share in death as the consequence of sin. The Westminster Larger Catechism puts it this way: “The covenant being made with Adam as a public person, not for himself only, but for his posterity, all mankind descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him in that first transgression.” Because of Adam’s disobedience, not only would human beings return to the dust, but their hearts died to God as well. For in Adam, all die (1 Cor. 15:22).
 
The theological concept of total depravity describes the state of sin into which all people are born. Every member of the human race has been corrupted by sin. “They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one” (Ps. 14:3). But total depravity does not mean we are all as bad as we could possibly be; it means every part of our humanity—mental, physical, spiritual—has been affected by sin.
 
Yet God provides a way to bring the spiritually dead back to life. Adam’s sin meant death for all humankind, but Christ’s obedience brings life for those who believe (Rom. 5:18). It is those who believe who become part of God’s “chosen race.” So although humankind is one race biologically, there are two spiritual races.
 
The Bible speaks of this spiritual dichotomy (a division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different,) in various ways. Jesus says, “Before him [God] will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left” (Matt. 25:32–33). In another example, John the Baptist says, “His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:17). In these parables, the wheat and sheep are the people who repent and believe in Jesus Christ, and the chaff and goats are all those who persist in unbelief.
 
Conversations about race should be held within the biblical framework of the image of God on the one hand and total depravity on the other. Humans are of one biological race that is divided into two spiritual races. Even though race as a social construct has meaning, the most important racial category for Christians is being part of God’s chosen race. Believers must engage in dialogue about race with the goal of presenting the gospel to people who are still of the unredeemed race.
 
Further, Christians should recognize that their primary identity is in Christ. Racial identities are not foundational. Being one of the “chosen race,” a member of the household of God, a sheep, a stalk of wheat—these are all biblical categories for identity. “In Christ Jesus, the dividing wall has been broken down, and ethnic distinctions no longer matter. All who have been redeemed by Christ’s blood and reconciled to God and to one another are one in Christ.” Believers can still identify as black or white, Chinese or Portuguese, but their most important identity is as Christians.
 
Humility should lead Christians to acknowledge that everyone has cultural blind spots. Each person’s upbringing and social position gives him or her a certain vantage point from which to view life. But it also brings with it a certain inability to see life from the viewpoint of another. Christians need one another to help form a more comprehensive panorama of the world. Brothers and sisters in Christ should be able to point out one another’s racial blind spots without tearing each other down. Instead, speaking the truth in love, Christians should build up the body for holiness and unity.
 
MOVING FROM HOPE TO REALITY
 
Conversations about racial issues such as the ones Ferguson brought up will have a frustrating repetitiveness if Christians simply mimic the culture’s categories of race instead of looking first to the Word of God. Scripture teaches that all human beings descend from one set of parents who were made in the image and likeness of God. But all human beings have also sinned and together have become estranged from God. Christians, though, are a people who have been brought from spiritual death to life by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. They are a new race, a chosen race. What unites believers is far greater than any racial divide. The recent resurgence of racial tensions caused by the death of Mike Brown, the nonindictment of Officer Darren Wilson, the protests in Baltimore, the fatalities of John Crawford, Ezell Ford, Akai Gurley, and others give the church an opportunity to engage productively in discussions about the social construct of race in America. When Christians consciously employ the biblical categories for race, then reconciliation has the opportunity to move from hope to reality.
 
Summing it up,

What does “nation, kindred, tongue and people” in Rev. 14 mean?
 
I’ll give you the basic meaning of each of the words in question, and then point out a couple of hermeneutical issues that might help.
 
(1) “Nation” is the Greek ethnos, which simply means “a multitude or nation” like the Samaritan nation or people (Acts 8:9) or the Jews (Acts 10:22). Compare also the seven nations of Canaan (Acts 13:19), nation rising against nation (Mark 13:8). It may also be used in the sense of “foreigners” as an equivalent of the Hebrew goyim. It was actually used in Rome of the foreign people in contrast to Italians. So in the New Testament, it is sometimes used in the sense of heathen, Gentiles, pagans in contrast to the Jews who had the promises of God (Matt. 10:18).
 
Further, it is used of Gentile churches which would mean churches made of primarily non-Jews of many different nations like Greek and Italian, etc. Ultimately, the context must be carefully noted.
 
(2) “Kindred” or tribe is phule mean “a tribe” or “a nation, people.” Again context is the issue. It is used of the twelve tribes of Israel or of a specific tribe of Israel (Rev. 7:4; Heb. 7:13), but it may also be used of a nation of people (Matt. 24:30; Rev. 1:7). In some cases it would, because of its combination with other synonyms, perhaps focus on smaller groups within a particular nation of people.
 
(3) “Tongue” is glossa and means “a tongue” or “a language” and as such, becomes a synonym for a group of people distinguished by their particular language or even dialect.
 
(4) “People” is laos and means just that, “a people, a crowd, a populace” or of “a people as a nation.”
 
In the passages of Revelation like 5:9; 7:9; 10:11; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6; 17:15, these words are combined together to emphasize the concept of totality or all-encompassing, i.e., “all the world.” It stresses that no group of people will be left untouched or affected in some way, depending on the context. In Revelation 14:6, it refers, of course, to the outreach of the gospel and in 5:9 to the extent or unlimited nature of the death of Christ. So in essence, each passage where these words are used either by themselves or with other words as synonyms, the context must be looked at carefully

Now in this I’ve given you a glimpse into how God sees it, if you’ve read all the way through. Please be Blessed with this new information!

Race, Nationality, and Ethnicity are Used Interchangeably Nowadays
Race, Nationality, and Ethnicity are Used Interchangeably Nowadays

 

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